Verba Bestiae: How Latin Conquered Heavy Metal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The presence of Latin in heavy metal music ranges from full texts, intros, song and album titles to band names, pseudonyms, and literary quotations. This chapter sheds light on heavy metal’s fascination with the history and ‘arcane’ sound of Latin, and investigates its patterns of use in lyrics with the help of Natural Language Processing tools and digitally-available linguistic resources. First, the authors collected a corpus of lyrics containing differing amounts of Latin and enhanced it with descriptive metadata. Next, the authors calculated the richness of the vocabulary and the distribution of content words. The authors processed the corpus with a morphological analyser and performed both a manual and a computational search for intertextuality, including allusions, paraphrase and verbatim quotations of literary sources. The authors show that, despite it being a dead language, Latin is very frequently used in metal. Its historical status appears to fascinate bands and lends itself well to those religious, epic and mysterious themes so characteristic of the heavy metal world. The widespread use of Latin in metal lyrics, however, sees many bands simply reusing Latin texts – mostly from the Bible – or even misspelling literary quotations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultilingual Metal Music: Sociocultural, Linguistic and Literary Perspectives on Heavy Metal Lyrics
EditorsRiitta-Liisa Valijärvi, Charlotte Doesburg, Amanda DiGioia
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Heavy Metal
  • Latin


Dive into the research topics of 'Verba Bestiae: How Latin Conquered Heavy Metal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this